|Morel Vario On-wall 5.1 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers On-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2006|
Page 1 of 3
All too often, we as consumers gravitate towards the latest technology and stylistic trends with reckless abandon. One only has to look at flat panel display sales over the past few years in the U.S. to understand. Fortunately for consumers, this often frothing at the mouth attitude helps propel technology further faster, while helping to keep overall costs relatively low. While flat panel displays are no flash in the pan, other facets of the consumer electronics industry, mainly speaker manufacturers, have been forced to play catch-up. Sure, you can stick with your bulky floor standers that take up as much space as a sofa and chair but that’s not sexy. Is it? While in-walls provide an aura of stealth and sophistication to many installations, there are still those out there who rent their homes and/or do not wish to cut holes in the walls, making in-walls less of an option. It’s this simple fact that has given rise to a whole new sector of speaker design called on-walls. While many speaker manufacturers (actually most) have a line or two of on-wall speakers, few have the reputation and/or technical background of Morel. While Morel has been designing and manufacturing micro satellite/subwoofer speaker systems for two decades now and has received rave reviews from many publications, including AVRev.com, their new line of on-walls, the Varios, are out to prove you can have your cake and eat it, too.
The Vario system is the first of its kind for Morel, which has being designing and manufacturing loudspeakers since the mid-‘70s. What isn’t a first for Morel is that the Varios are simply stunning in their appearance and craftsmanship. Measuring in at a little under 11 inches wide by 23-and-three-quarters inches tall and a mere four-and-three-quarters inches deep, these compact giants are unlike anything Morel has ever produced. Weighing in at a respectable 36 pounds apiece, these speakers show that even when designing a new product, Morel isn’t out to make something cheap. Each Vario on-wall speaker can be purchased separately to the tune of $999.00. However, a complete 5.1 system (like the one in this review) will run you a total of $5,994.00, which also includes a single Vario subwoofer ($999.00). The decision to price each Vario separately is rather smart, because it will allow potential buyers to start with maybe a two or three-channel Vario system and upgrade from there, as their systems and/or budgets allow. The Vario on-walls come in two finishes, white or a dark gray, and are wall-mountable only via the included metal bracket and mounting hardware. The Varios’ binding posts are recessed in a small chamber almost in the dead center of the speaker itself and are a push-pin design capable of accepting only bare wire, which should be run behind the walls for a seamless look and installation. Another nice feature is that the Varios can expand with relative ease to match the length or height, depending on how they’re mounted, of almost any flat panel display for a more uniform look.
Behind the Vario’s grille rests two five-and-a-quarter-inch rear-vented bass/midrange drivers, with a single one-inch soft dome tweeter resting front and center between them. The Varios are a sealed box design made from MDF, which means you won’t find any ports to help with the speaker’s ultimate bass output. However, given Morel’s background in designing some of the best drivers money can buy, the Varios’ overall output, high or low, really isn’t in question. Each speaker boasts a frequency response of 30-25,000Hz into a five-ohm load at a sensitivity of 89dB and has a nominal power handling rating of 200 watts.
Turning my attention to the Vario subwoofer, I was again pleasantly surprised. I recently wrote about another stylish Morel sub, the SoundSub, and while I don’t consider the Vario sub to be quite as visually endearing, it is, without a doubt, different – dare I say cool? The Vario sub sports, from the front, a rather traditional “boxy” look, yet when you view the sub from an angle/profile, you see that it’s almost triangular in shape. The Vario sub has a subtle slope to its front face that abruptly changes direction inward or towards the back of the sub as you reach the bottom of the enclosure. It measures in at a hair under 24 inches tall by 17-and-three-quarters inches wide and eight-and-half inches deep, weighing a hefty 44 pounds. Like its on-wall counterparts, the Vario sub is available in the same white or dark gray finish. On the “triangular” sides of the sub, there are rather large flared ports to help with the sub’s overall bass output. Also, I should point out that due to the Vario sub’s unique shape, it can be placed flush against the wall in two configurations, upright or lying down. Turning the sub 180 degrees, I found its myriad inputs/outputs and controls. The sub has two different input options, line-level RCA phono jacks and five-way binding posts. For outputs, the Vario sub has the same RCA jacks, but it a low-level configuration as well as high-level five-way binding posts with high-pass filters at 100Hz/6dB. There are also controls for phase, crossover frequency and volume/level resting just above the sub’s binding posts. Throw in a rather beefy detachable power cord and that sums up the sub’s outward appearance.
Inside, the Vario sub utilizes a single 10-inch woofer with a two-inch coil and rear-vented motor with a reported frequency response of 25-160Hz. The Vario sub has an internal 200-watt power amplifier, which by today’s subwoofer standards doesn’t sound like a lot but, knowing what I now know about Morel 200-watts, seems like overkill.
I set up the Varios in my upstairs Plasma system, which consists of a 50-inch Vizio HD plasma monitor, a Denon 4806 receiver, a Denon 3910 universal player, an Adelphia HD DVR digital cable box and my trusty JVC S-VHS player. All of my equipment and speakers were connected using Monster M Series cables, with power filtration coming by way of Monster as well.
The Vario speakers come with a very handy cardboard template that makes placing the metal brackets a snap. I positioned two brackets on either side of my Vizio plasma, with the third bracket for the center channel speaker just below. Morel recommends mounting the Varios to studs whenever possible and I have to agree with them. However, due to the layout of my room, I wasn’t always lucky enough to have a stud or two where I was planning on mounting the speakers, so I had to use some after-market drywall anchors available at most hardware stores. I mounted the rear speaker brackets where the JBL L series rears were previously mounted, taking advantage of the same cardboard template and drywall anchors. Once I had the mounting plates in place, it was simply a case of sliding the Varios onto them. While it sounded simple enough, this was far from the case. To say the Varios are a snug fit would be the understatement of the year. I struggled to mount the speakers to their brackets for over an hour until I figured out the secret. There are four tabs that hold the speaker in place. Taking a small set of pliers and bending the tabs back away from the wall a little makes life and mounting a whole lot easier. All in all, the entire system took about two hours to unpack, wire and mount.
One thing to point out is that, while the Varios are an on-wall design, they prefer to have the speaker cable(s) routed through the wall. For the purposes of this review, I had to use a relatively flat speaker cable from Monster Cable to connect the Varios to my Denon receiver, because I was unwilling to punch more holes in my wall for a temporary set-up. My advice would be to have your local Morel dealer come to your house and have the dealer pull wire and do the mounting to eliminate any mistakes and/or unnecessary headaches.